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Cocooning may protect newborns from whooping cough

Vaccinations have weakened, but not eradicated, many once fatal diseases
Vaccinations have weakened, but not eradicated, many once fatal diseases

Polio. Scarlet fever. Typhoid. Today, this list does little more than conjure up old memories of iron lungs, crutches and maybe one sad velveteen rabbit. But less than a century ago, these words were enough to make most parents go white with dread.

Thanks to advancements in medicine and vaccination, these diseases have been all but eradicated. But as powerful as modern medicine has become, there are still holes in its defenses, as proven by a recent Californian outbreak of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, that is well on its way to being the most widespread outbreak the state has seen in 50 years. So far over 900 cases of pertussis have been confirmed, with a death toll of at least five, prompting state health officials to declare it an epidemic.

The sheer volume of whooping cough cases has many parents worried and wondering how a commonly contained disease like pertussis could experience such a powerful revival.

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